gall and gumption

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Latest Thing in MoBay

I learn from the Jamaica Gleaner that children are being recruited into the lottery scam in Jamaica. They call their US victims from their cell phones.

2008 was the peak year. For some reason it has been operating out of Western Jamaica, mainly Montego Bay, and during the last couple of years there were several killings that now appear to have been related to the considerable sums of money that were coming in. When I say several killings I mean a lot. This little outbreak in March, after law enforcement got things quieted down, killed more than a dozen people, just in Montego Bay, in a period of less than two weeks.

In 2008 the death toll from the scams was 219. Most of these killings occur in Montego Bay's poor inner city slum areas, and I suspect tourists don't even know such places exist. But the money from the lotto scam has funded an increase in firepower among the gangsters that operate in these places, with a corresponding increase in violence. I am sure that some of it has gone to "lifestyle-related expenditures" for local dons.

I don't know what ever became of this effort, though the violence in Montego Bay seems to have subsided a bit.

The school kids are encouraged to get into it because their parents are desperately hard up. The money helps them buy things like books and school uniforms. In some families the child is now the main breadwinner. The kids who are in high school are not the absolutely worst off, either. I mean, there are people who are poorer than they are. It would be hard to be a parent living in a slum in Montego Bay and not know just how deadly this business can be, and yet they allow the kids to participate.

When contacted on Friday, Colin Blair, director of communication in the education ministry, said the ministry was putting measures in place to deal with the problem without giving specifics.

However, up to press time, Blair had not indicated what, if anything, the ministry has done to tackle the problem.

I cannot imagine what they could possibly do. Give them a firm talking-to? US$30 million dollars flowed into those communities last year. Most of it probably went to the gangsters, but still. The arrival of such a sum in all of Jamaica would be a big deal, and it was just this one little section of one parish where most of it was headed.

You know, when I get some of those Nigerian emails, I am always struck by how amateurishly they are written or cut and pasted together. I wonder if it's because schoolchildren are running those as well.